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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

The FBI is watching you.

If you're in the antiwar movement in the US, that is.

According to the New York Times, the FBI is compiling information on the 'tactics, training, and organization' of antiwar activists and organizations, and has sent out a memo to local law enforcement agencies urging them to report similar information to FBI counter-terrorism squads. These FBI activies are reminiscent of the spying that the agency did on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists under its rabidly anti-communist former director J. Edgar Hoover.

The FBI memo alerted law enforcement agencies to various activities engaged in by anti-war groups, such as:

— Using training camps to 'to rehearse tactics and counter-strategies for dealing with the police and to resolve any logistical issues'
— Using the Internet 'to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations'
— Raising money 'to help pay for lawyers for those arrested'
— Using gas masks to protect demonstrators against tear gas
— Videotaping police while they make arrests (an attempt to 'intimidate' the cops, says the memo)

The fact that these are all lawful activities didn't seem to matter to the FBI, which also warned local police agencies that demonstrators might use forged documents to get into secured areas or commit violent acts using homemade bombs.

Even the Times has to admit that the memo 'appears to offer the first corroboration of a coordinated, nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding demonstrations.'

While the FBI is denying that its memo indicates any sinister motives, it has surfaced in a political climate in which antiwar activists have found themselves unable to get on airplance because their names are on 'no-fly' lists, and in which local police agencies are apparently already involved in surreptitious activities againts anti-war demonstators. In this connection, the Times article points to accusations that authorities in Denver and Fresno (CA) have infiltrated planning meetings or spied on activists; and how the NY City police has been questioning arrested demonstators about their political activies.

Civil libertarians and some legal scholars think the FBI memo could be early evidence that the type of spying that Hoover's FBI did on Martin Luther King could be about to return.

"The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."

Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University who has written about F.B.I. history, said collecting intelligence at demonstrations is probably legal.

But he added: "As a matter of principle, it has a very serious chilling effect on peaceful demonstration. If you go around telling people, 'We're going to ferret out information on demonstrations,' that deters people. People don't want their names and pictures in F.B.I. files."


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| | Posted by Magpie at 12:37 PM | Get permalink




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